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CaliPoutine

Cooking with "Cook's Illustrated"

186 posts in this topic

Tonight I made the Spaghetti Puttanesca from the March 2002 issue of Cook's Illustrated (recipe here at www.cooksillustrated.com if you have online access). The article title is "Spaghetti Puttanesca in 11 Minutes" and while 11 minutes might be a stretch if you count boiling the water, start-to-finish for me was about 20 minutes. Of course, this is in line with the classic recipes: they didn't change much over Bugialli's recipe in The Fine Art of Italian Cooking. A few tweaks to the techniques to squeeze the most flavor out of the ingredients, but otherwise this is your basic Puttanesca. In my opinion, that is a good thing: why mess with success? In my opinion this recipe makes far too much sauce: I make a half batch and serve about 2/3 of that for two people. This is one recipe that really doesn't suffer at all using canned tomatoes, either. Between the olives, capers and anchovies, the tomatoes are really a background element.

gallery_56799_5710_49261.jpg


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Here is the beer can chicken I made on Mother's Day. It was so incredibly moist and tasty. The rub was super simple and I used no other sauce. I did use 2 empty soup cans( that I filled w/ beer and crushed bay leaves) since they were sturdier than beer cans.

I picked up these chickens at Meijer( in MI) for .69lb.

gallery_25969_665_361350.jpg


Edited by CaliPoutine (log)

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Randi~

those are fat little buggers ! how much did they weigh? I like ot cook large chickens and sometimes have trouble figuring out how long to cook them since so many recipes are scaled for 3 lb chicks (and I like 5 pounders).

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Randi~

those are fat little buggers ! how much did they weigh? I like ot cook large chickens and sometimes have trouble figuring out how long to cook them since so many recipes are scaled for 3 lb chicks (and I like 5 pounders).

They were about 3.5lbs each. I think they look bigger in the picture. They took about 2.5 hrs.

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Here is a salad I made tonight. I had a container of arugla that I wanted to use up.

I believe this is from May 03. Arugula, asparagus(local) and white bean salad( I added feta and toasted pine nuts)

gallery_25969_665_867583.jpg

Dinner was skillet chicken and rice, w peas and green onions. The rice was really tender and flavorful.

gallery_25969_665_683397.jpg


Edited by CaliPoutine (log)

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Just received the July/August 2008 issue. One of its recipes is titled "Reviving the Original Drive-In Burger." It involves grinding meat at home, which I'm not opposed to, but eschews the traditional chuck due to "rubberiness, dryness and lack of beef flavor," opting instead for a considerably more complicated and expensive combination of sirloin tip and boneless short ribs.

What the heck? Chuck is ideal for burgers precisely because it's inexpensive, fatty and has great beefy flavor. Has anyone had a real problem with flavor or texture of burgers made from home-ground chuck?

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Just received the July/August 2008 issue. One of its recipes is titled "Reviving the Original Drive-In Burger." It involves grinding meat at home, which I'm not opposed to, but eschews the traditional chuck due to "rubberiness, dryness and lack of beef flavor," opting instead for a considerably more complicated and expensive combination of sirloin tip and boneless short ribs.

What the heck? Chuck is ideal for burgers precisely because it's inexpensive, fatty and has great beefy flavor. Has anyone had a real problem with flavor or texture of burgers made from home-ground chuck?

I occasionally play around with different cuts: I made a meatloaf this week that used short ribs as the beef component, and it worked really well. I like hamburgers made with a blend of chuck and other cuts, since I generally agree with them that chuck is not that flavorful. Just because it's going into a burger doesn't mean that you have to use the cheapest cut out there, IMO.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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But, alas, recipes like their Beef Tacos from May 2002 are so good that I find it impossible to consider canceling my magazine subscription! Has anyone else tried these? As jsmeeker mentioned in my foodblog, one of the things they recommend is buying soft corn tortillas and frying them yourself. Total pain in the butt, but also makes the best taco shells I've ever had at home, hands down, no question.

I tried this recipe a few times, and I completely agree that frying your own taco shells makes a huge difference. I also agree that it is a huge pain, since you have to stand there holding each shell in a bent shape while frying, making it impossible to get anything else done. So my solution to this problem is to make tostadas instead! Same filling, toppings, etc. I just drop each tortilla into the oil and let if fry flat, flipping halfway through. It takes half the time (since you don't have to fry the two halves seperately) and because you don't have to hold the tortilla while frying, you can get other work done at the same time. The way I do it is to do all the chopping and measuring first, and then cook the beef filling at the same time I fry the tortillas.

I also find that making tostadas instead of tacos allows you more leeway to play with the ratio of fillings. I really like the freshness from the lettuce and cilantro, so this allows me to pile it on.

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The other night I made the Golden Northern Cornbread from the September 1995 issue, and I was quite disappointed with how it turned out. From the article:

This cornbread is moist and light, with the rich taste of corn. Use stone-ground or water-ground cornmeal for the best taste and texture. Either yellow or white cornmeal bakes into a handsome, delicious cornbread.
In my opinion, there was very little flavor, it was a bit dry, and it was not very "Northern-like" at all to my tastes (that is, it was not soft, moist and sweet). What gives? I could swear I have made a successful CI-recipe cornbread before, it must not have been this one! I was left wondering if it was the cornmeal itself: I used a stone-ground organic that had lots of germ in it, so I was hoping for a lot of great flavor, as the article promised me! Is there another Northern-style cornbread recipe in a more recent issue that I could be thinking of? (I feel like it might have actually had corn kernels in it, anyone remember that one?)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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The other night I made the Golden Northern Cornbread from the September 1995 issue, and I was quite disappointed with how it turned out. From the article:
This cornbread is moist and light, with the rich taste of corn. Use stone-ground or water-ground cornmeal for the best taste and texture. Either yellow or white cornmeal bakes into a handsome, delicious cornbread.
In my opinion, there was very little flavor, it was a bit dry, and it was not very "Northern-like" at all to my tastes (that is, it was not soft, moist and sweet). What gives? I could swear I have made a successful CI-recipe cornbread before, it must not have been this one! I was left wondering if it was the cornmeal itself: I used a stone-ground organic that had lots of germ in it, so I was hoping for a lot of great flavor, as the article promised me! Is there another Northern-style cornbread recipe in a more recent issue that I could be thinking of? (I feel like it might have actually had corn kernels in it, anyone remember that one?)

I'm not a big fan of their Golden Northern Cornbread either. It's still firmly in the savory camp, and I think that type should be sweet. (Please, if you're a southerner, don't shoot me). Were you maybe thinking of their corn muffins? I tried those a while ago, and while they are not cake-sweet, they do have a nice sweetness to them and a softer, moister crumb. They offered a few variations on the muffins; I can't remember if one included corn kernals or not.

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The other night I made the Golden Northern Cornbread from the September 1995 issue, and I was quite disappointed with how it turned out. From the article:
This cornbread is moist and light, with the rich taste of corn. Use stone-ground or water-ground cornmeal for the best taste and texture. Either yellow or white cornmeal bakes into a handsome, delicious cornbread.
In my opinion, there was very little flavor, it was a bit dry, and it was not very "Northern-like" at all to my tastes (that is, it was not soft, moist and sweet). What gives? I could swear I have made a successful CI-recipe cornbread before, it must not have been this one! I was left wondering if it was the cornmeal itself: I used a stone-ground organic that had lots of germ in it, so I was hoping for a lot of great flavor, as the article promised me! Is there another Northern-style cornbread recipe in a more recent issue that I could be thinking of? (I feel like it might have actually had corn kernels in it, anyone remember that one?)

Oh wait, I just looked online. The Corn Muffins don't have corn kernels in them. I think you were looking for their All-Purpose Cornbread from January 2005:

http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipe.asp?recipeids=1985

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Oh wait, I just looked online.  The Corn Muffins don't have corn kernels in them.  I think you were looking for their All-Purpose Cornbread from January 2005:

http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipe.asp?recipeids=1985

Bingo---that's the one I was thinking of. I know I've made that one in the past and it was really good. Maybe I will give the muffins a shot too, but I'm definitely staying away from the Sept. '95 recipe: it's just not very good.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Oh wait, I just looked online.  The Corn Muffins don't have corn kernels in them.  I think you were looking for their All-Purpose Cornbread from January 2005:

http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipe.asp?recipeids=1985

Bingo---that's the one I was thinking of. I know I've made that one in the past and it was really good. Maybe I will give the muffins a shot too, but I'm definitely staying away from the Sept. '95 recipe: it's just not very good.

I had the same experience you did. I counted their 1995 cornbread recipe as one in the "failures' list. I was surprised at how dry and flavorless it was.

--Josh

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Oh wait, I just looked online.  The Corn Muffins don't have corn kernels in them.  I think you were looking for their All-Purpose Cornbread from January 2005:

http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipe.asp?recipeids=1985

Bingo---that's the one I was thinking of. I know I've made that one in the past and it was really good. Maybe I will give the muffins a shot too, but I'm definitely staying away from the Sept. '95 recipe: it's just not very good.

I made the Corn muffins( using organic stone ground corn meal) and I wasnt impressed. I'm always comparing corn muffins to my favorite corn muffins from a Jewish Bakery in FL. The muffins as I made them were grainy. Maybe I was supposed to whiz the cornmeal in the cuisinart?

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The new issue is out. Anyone( Chris??) made anything yet?

I definitely want to try the Enchiladas Verdes. The Pasta with Olives, Garlic and Herbs looks good too, although I'm skeptical of the addition of bread crumbs.

The recipe for Grilled Sausages with Onions amused me. Not that it's impossible to screw up, but any idiot with a grill can make this just fine.

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The recipe for Grilled Sausages with Onions amused me. Not that it's impossible to screw up, but any idiot with a grill can make this just fine.

I got really excited when I saw it in the index: then I opened the recipe and they meant store-bought sausages!!! Weak. I thought a charcuterie recipe from CI would be awesome. I like their recipe for red-sauced enchiladas from the past, but wasn't so hot on the tomatillo variation they came up with for it. Maybe this new enchiladas verdes recipe will be an improvement. Alas, I'm in "clean out the cabinets" mode right now, so I won't be joining in much of the fun with this issue for another month or so. Made the fried rice again a couple nights ago, though: I love that recipe!


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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The recipe for Grilled Sausages with Onions amused me. Not that it's impossible to screw up, but any idiot with a grill can make this just fine.

I got really excited when I saw it in the index: then I opened the recipe and they meant store-bought sausages!!! Weak. I thought a charcuterie recipe from CI would be awesome. I like their recipe for red-sauced enchiladas from the past, but wasn't so hot on the tomatillo variation they came up with for it. Maybe this new enchiladas verdes recipe will be an improvement. Alas, I'm in "clean out the cabinets" mode right now, so I won't be joining in much of the fun with this issue for another month or so. Made the fried rice again a couple nights ago, though: I love that recipe!

I love those red chilie chicken enchiladas. I'm excited to try this new green version. I'll have to wait until I can bring some tomatillos back from MI. Thats one vegetable I've never seen here( even in London). Its funny though, my small town grocery store does sells gooseberries( tomatillo's are a relative of) , but they always end up on the reduced rack.

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Better Bran Muffins (May 2007, p. 25)

Recipe here if you have online access.

gallery_56799_5925_50405.jpg

OK, I admit this isn't really a Cook's Illustrated recipe anymore after I got at it, so let's call it "inspired by Cook's Illustrated." I'm trying to empty the cabinets, so I made a few substitutions. First, the recipe calls for raisins, and I used dried cranberries. It also has you soak them in warm water, but I figured that everything is better soaked in rum, so I did that instead. Next, it calls for a half cup of whole wheat flour, which I am out of, so substituted with a blend of bread flour and wheat germ. It calls for three tablespoons of light molasses, but I only have regular (actually, I don't even know what "light" molasses is...doh!), so I used half regular molasses and half Lyle's Golden Syrup. Finally, it calls for 1 2/3 cup yogurt, but I was stupid at the store and only bought a 6oz container. This is where things got hairy: I also had a small tub of sour cream, so I used that. But that still didn't make 1 2/3 cup, so I topped it off with buttermilk, probably about 1/4 cup. So now, the "simple" recipe is not so simple after all, since I have nearly doubled the ingredient count! Anyway, for the most part they turned out quite well (better than the cornbread, anyway!). Who knows what they are like when you actually, you know, follow the recipe, but I think the inclusion of the whole wheat flour is a nice idea, as is the powdering of half the All-Bran. And frankly, they really ought to have you soaking the raisins in rum in the first place... :biggrin:


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I made the Best Blueberry Pie from the new (July/Aug 2008) issue today. Haven't cut into it yet -- it's supposed to cool for 4 hours minimum. But it smells wonderful.

gallery_56180_5142_469780.jpg

My only problem was that I seem to have made the crust too thin in one area -- you can see that the filling bubbled through there. Otherwise, it was a breeze.

--Josh

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I made the Best Blueberry Pie from the new (July/Aug 2008) issue today. Haven't cut into it yet -- it's supposed to cool for 4 hours minimum. But it smells wonderful.

gallery_56180_5142_469780.jpg

My only problem was that I seem to have made the crust too thin in one area -- you can see that the filling bubbled through there. Otherwise, it was a breeze.

--Josh

That looks incredible!


There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

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That looks incredible!

I'm happy to report that it tastes pretty much as good as it looks (although I think if I'd used fresh rather than frozen blueberries, it might've tasted even better -- but around here, fresh organic blueberries are going for $5 a half-pint).

My wife is by far my severest critic -- probably fewer than eight times in all the years I've known her has she not had at least a couple of criticisms of anything I've made. This was one of those rare instances in which she could not think of a single negative word about this pie, and I love those instances because they help me justify the cost of the subscription to CI. :-)

The filling is, as advertised, not runny in the slightest -- yet it doesn't have the mouthfeel of something that's been stabilized. The apple is indetectable. I was able to taste the lemon, but my wife and her best friend didn't know it was in there and didn't detect it -- a good thing since my wife tends to find it intrusive. The crust is the usual -- gotta love that vodka crust that Kenji developed. It's never let me down.

BTW, we also tried out that Oxo Mango Splitter/Seeder this morning, that's reviewed in the latest issue. It works like a dream.

--Josh

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My experiences with CI have been mixed. It's fabulous that there's an organization out there that can bring that level of attention to detail. I tend to really enjoy (and reuse) their savory recipes, but the desserts I've made have left me cold. I'm not much of a baker so from the gorgeous photos upthread I have to believe their baking chemistry is first-rate. The easier dessert recipes I've tried haven't been as successful. I made their cherry cobbler and found it absurdly, distractingly sweet. I made the lemon meringue pie for a group of friends and they liked it, but I thought it was dull in flavor, too-sweet, and with too much corn starch. I realize that I just have to translate the test kitchen's desired sweetness to mine, but I don't have the interest in most desserts to bother. That being said, CI is my go-to source on any technique that I want to try for the first time.

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Thin, Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies (March 2001, p. 23)

(Recipe here if you have online access.)

gallery_56799_5925_80002.jpg

This recipe produces a shatteringly-thin chocolate chip cookie without any of the toughness I usually associate with crispy cookies (I generally prefer the thick and chewy variety). I managed to follow the recipe this time, although I used Toll House Morsels instead of whatever their preferred chip is. I did end up making them too large since I only have a 1.5 tbsp scoop and the recipe calls for a 1 tbsp. They spread much more than the regular Toll House recipe, so I ended up with square cookies that I had to cut apart, but the taste was very good.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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